Thursday, September 30, 2010

Esther Grace Keeling

About this time a year ago today, I was staring at my sleeping baby girl, so tiny in that little glass cart beside my hospital bed, wondering what in the world I was going to do with all that pink. Tonight, I still stare at that baby girl asleep in her crib, but now I wonder what in the world I'm going to do with all that personality! One year old. Wow. Time flies, doesn't it?

Some of you know the story of how our little Esther Gracie came into this world but others may not. Bear with me but tonight I feel a bit nostalgic and would like to post a small recap. [Warning: this may be long.] Where do I begin? Ah, yes.

 I. was. HUGE.

Yes, that's a 46" belly.

I had just snuggled up with my bowl of ice-cream to watch "The Biggest Loser" when, what do you know, my water broke. I was so excited! (I'm not a very good pregnant person. Did you see the 46 on the tape measure?) We got all of our bags and packed Jonah to stay with my parents. After dropping him off at their house, we went ahead and headed to St. Mary's. Now I know you're supposed to wait until your contractions are 3 minutes apart or screaming your head off in pain, whichever comes first. But I wasn't about to chance getting stuck at home.

You see, the whole week previous there had been flooding in metro-Atlanta. Flooding. As in, water on the road. The hospital is a good 30, maybe 40, minute drive from our house. I just knew we were going to be stuck and I would have to birth that baby in my car without an epidural! It was raining the night my water broke but the waters remained in their river banks and we got to St. Mary's without delay. I walked into the emergency room where I waited patiently in line behind an oh-so-pregnant young lady who was obviously much farther in her labor than I was at this point. She did not look like she was enjoying this. I could also tell that it was definitely her first child because her husband was loaded down with bags, pillows, books (who reads a labor & delivery book while in labor?), etc. and kept asking every 15 seconds, "Are you okay?" My husband was parking the car.

Finally it was my turn to register with the girl at the desk. I literally hopped right up to her and said, "Guess." She didn't laugh. I thought it was pretty funny. She confirmed all of my information in the computer as I bounced from one foot to the other. (Again, did you see the 46? I'm pretty sure I was sucking in when that picture was taken. I was so excited!) She began to tell me how I might be checked in for observation but that I'd probably be sent home if I wasn't far enough in the labor process. Apparently my hopping did not allude to the fact that I was actually having some pretty good contractions. All I had to do was show her my pants and say, "This is not pee." That did it.

A guy came to escort me, my friend & co-laborer, and her husband to the baby ward. (My husband? Still parking.) He asked if we needed wheelchairs. New mama said, "No, (ugh) I'd (hunh) much (mmmhh) rather (grrrnn) walk these out. (pant, pant) It speeds (huff, huff) up labor. (groan)" Oh. One of those. That explained the big exercise- I mean, birthing- ball in the lobby. Well, if WonderWoman here didn't need one I guess that meant Hop-a-Long didn't either because he never even offered me one. As he sprinted down the hallways, we had to make frequent stops because my friend kept leaning over and basically collapsing at every doorway. The little fella kept looking at me like, "Is she gonna be allright?" while hubby just looked scared to death. "First one?" I offered. "Yeah (moan). I've been in labor since (arrrr) yesterday and they've sent me back (hunnngh) three times." What. Okay, so I'm pretty much going home. Might as well turn around now before Bear had to get one of those parking ticket thingies from the little machine and we have to pay 3 bucks for this little trip. Maybe we could stop at the Varsity since I didn't get to finish my ice-cream.

We got to the baby ward and the nurse took my friend to a room pretty quickly. Another one came up to me and asked me how I was doing. "Great!" I exclaimed. "I'm not going to be pregnant anymore!" That got a courtesy laugh. Well, she was polite. She said that normally they have some kind of test strip to determine whether or not my water had actually broken. Then, while looking behind me at the trail I'd left along the hallway, she turned her attention back to me and said, "I don't think that will be necessary in this case here." Sweet. A room and a bed. Almost like a vacation. :)

Fast forward a few hours and several episodes of "The Duggars" later: Bear made it to the room and has now positioned himself in the fold-out bed in full out coma. I'm so excited I can't stand it. My mom and Ouida are asleep in the waiting room. Toni, my step-mom-in-law (or MOSMIL- mean old step mom in law- for short) and I are the only ones who can't control ourselves. She's not mean, we just say that as a joke because step-moms are normally mean in all the stories. She had never seen a baby born from the other end before and everyone else was already used to me and my shenanigans. I needed the sympathy and she wanted the show. :)

They checked me to see how far along I was and I am proud to say that I was "a good 8 centimeters", which in Kristen-ese is "practically dying and how in the world are you being so brave and strong without being numb from the waist down". I was so proud of myself. Honestly, I wasn't even hurting the teeniest bit but I really didn't want to hurt so I went ahead and got the epidural then. I know, I know. I'm a baby. For the record, I have no doubt in my mind that I know I could have a baby naturally & probably would do it with grace & dignity. I just don't want to. Not even the teeniest desire whatsoever.

By the time it came for the actual birth part and everyone was awake, Toni and I had convinced ourselves that having 19 or so kids was a great idea and we didn't know why everyone didn't have that many. Do you know how sweet Mrs. Duggar is? Her voice is that of an angel. Yeah, I'm pretty sure Toni & I are not allowed to be alone together anymore. Needless to say, Esther Grace Keeling entered this world on September 30, 2009 at 5:52 a.m. weighing 7 lbs, 11 ounces. What a sweet pea.

Even though there was no more flooding here in Georgia, our family has been flooded with such a joy of this little girl! She is happiness, giggles, and grins. She claps her hands anytime there's music on, which is usually praise and worship music at our house, and lifts her hands to the Lord unashamedly. Our house has been flooded with pink, pink, pink. Babies and bracelets have flooded the playroom. I pray that her life is flooded with the Holy Spirit and she is bold and courageous like her namesake to act in obedience with His call. May Living Water overflow her heart and soul with a compassion for the lost and a burden to share the gospel with everyone she meets. And when the enemy comes in like a flood, may she call upon the Spirit of the Lord to lift up a standard against him.

As for my friend, I have no idea what her name was. I don't even know if she had a boy or a girl. All I know is that about 3 hours after Esther Grace was born, I was stepping out of the shower and heard a noise that I'm pretty sure has never been heard in a civilized setting. It was something primal, uttered from a place that I'm sure I never want to go. I quit towel-drying my hair and froze. There it was again. This time it was followed by, "She's pushing!" and several nurses running into the room a few doors down. A shriek, equal to that of a banshee, echoed throughout the corridor and then- silence. A soft tinkling of chimes sounded, announcing the birth of a new life in the hospital. I clicked on my hair dryer and smiled. Thank you, Jesus, for the epidural.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


[I had some complaints about the size of the picture and people being unable to read the quotations so I added them below. I also took the liberty of expanding on my previous post. Here's the new and improved version.]

I discovered this picture in an ad of a LifeWay magazine and immediately thought it completely embodied Bear and I. Here is where I disclose that I have already picked out our grandparent names. (I know, weird.)

Bear's real name, which I can NOT post because the youth are dying to figure it out, has two W's in it; therefore, I've declared that he can be known as "Dubs" to our offspring's future offspring. (Mainly because his dad refused to embrace the title once he became a granddad. For some reason, both men find me odd to even have come up with this but Bear's the one married to me and has no choice in the matter. Just between us, I'm pretty sure "Dubs" emanates from my fascination with/stalking of a certain *ahem* someone.)

I've claimed "Nonny" as my own title, since that's what Jonah actually has called me his whole life. The misnomer has just now been beginning to morph in "Mommy" as he approaches the ripe old age of three and a half. I just hope that the actual mother of my future grandbabies approves. I'll add it to my prayer list for Jonah's future wife, along with "a sincere compassion for deranged mother-in-laws".

So, here's a look at Nonny & Dubs.....

Nonny: "After all these years, he still can't keep his hands off me."
Dubs: "If I let go, she shops."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Little PR

We have friends, David and Stephanie Cannon, who are extrememly gifted when it comes to any type of media product. They've officially become our family photographers, they did my sister's wedding (I promise I'll post about that soon!), and do everything media related for our church. Not to mention they're our children's godparents so if Bear and I die anytime soon, you get to visit them on holidays to see the kids. :) Here's the link to their photography business:

Recently, David has expanded his repetoire to include video and has just started producing some videos for some fly shops in North Georgia. He can do any type of business if you're interested in updating your marketing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's Strictly a Parenting Issue

Okay, so I'm seeing a trend among Jonah's friends. First, there's Carter and his humble attitude. :) Bless him. He's such a sweet boy.

There's also Charlie, Jonah's cousin. I was talking to "Aunt B" (Brooke, my sister-in-law and mother to Charlie) about the kids a few weeks ago. She actually has two babies, well- they're almost 4. Charlie & Sarah are fraternal twins and are quite full of a good way, mind you.

Don't you just love the boots with the dress? She is a fashion connoisseur, let me tell you!

"Bant B", as Jonah calls her, was sharing how her two were at the playground and there was a tunnel slide. Sarah climbed up on top of the slide while Charlie crawled into the opening at the bottom. Then, Charlie proceeds to jump out of the opening with arms raised and shouted, "I AM RISEN!!!" Is that not precious?! Apparently, he was Jesus and Sarah was the angel at the tomb.

To go along with this pattern of Bible interpretation and application, Jonah came home from preschool the other day with a chapel story. Did you know that Abraham was running away from his "emenies", the Ammorites, when God told him to go to Nineveh? Yes, and when Abraham heard that he decided that he didn't want to go and so he ran away from God. But he didn't get far because there was a big sea in his way. So guess what he did? He stuck his big stick in the sand and God parted the water and they all walked across on dry land! Somehow, later on in the day, he added chains, jail, and a prison break to the story; however, Paul and Silas were nowhere to be found. Hmmmmmmm......let's hope he doesn't make a career out of writing commentaries!

I have no idea what version of the Bible Jonah's reading. And what is it with these boys wanting to be Divine? I'll tell you what I think. It's strictly a parenting issue.

Most boys their age emulate superheroes or run around playing good guy vs. bad guy. These three? They pretend to be the Ultimate Superhero. I mean, come on. What superpower is better than being risen from the dead? How do they know these things? Because their parents are teaching them God's Truth. Granted, things can get a little skewed...Abraham? Red Sea? Ammorites? Yeah. But what these young ones understand is that there is a God Who is All-Powerful and in control. He Alone holds the world in place and it is safe to trust Him with everything. They know that there are heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11-12) and they want to be a part of that Hall of Fame!

I read something very powerful in my Bible study notes the other day: "What we believe about God determines what we believe about ourselves, our world, our purposes, and our lives. What we believe determines how we behave." Yes. Even on the playground.

Oh, Lord- that I would be as bold as these toddlers! To live out my faith so unashamedly! What a blessing.

Thank you Ryan, Kelli, Russell, and Brooke for teaching your babies what really matters despite what this world may say. You embrace Matthew 19:14 wholeheartedly- "Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." You bring your children to Him everyday and by your example, encourage me to do the same. It's hard to inspire strength mixed with humility in a little fella, boldness seasoned with grace in a baby girl. But we have to do it because we're called to.

"These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life....Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 5-7

So thanks for your support and encouragement guys! (And if you find a Cliffs Notes on the Holy Bible, could you send it my way? I'm thinking we need a refresher course on the whole Old Testament.)

Friday, September 17, 2010


I posted about Jonism here. Carter Hodges is our neighbor. He's 4 and Jonah thinks they are brothers. Literally. Maybe because it's they share similar life theology. They are two peas in a pod. Here's a sampling of Carter's 'Hodgism':

Carter's parents, Ryan and Kelli, have been trying to teach him humility because everytime someone gives him a compliment, he affirms them. For example:

"Wow, Carter! That sure was a good throw."
"Yeah, I know. I'm good at that."
"Hey Buddy, thanks for sharing with Jonah. That was really sweet of you."
"Yeah, I know. I'm a pretty sweet boy."

Well, at church a while back Carter's Sunday School class was learning about the story of Moses and the burning bush. Carter's teacher, a good friend of Ryan's, was assigning parts to the kids so they could act out the whole story. There were many roles to consider: Moses, his donkey, the bush, Zipporah (Moses' wife), Moses' children, etc. When asked which part Carter wanted to play, he paused contemplating his choices and matter of factly stated, "Yeah. I'll be God."

Way to go, guys. I totally think that humility thing is workin' for ya. Not to worry though 'cause I'm right there with you.

Just today, Jonah showed sincere humility while riding with my mom. They were running errands and my mom told him, "Jonah, did you know that you're my favorite boy in the whole wide world?"
He simply stated, "Yeah." Then, after a pause, said, "God thought-" and stopped.
"God thought what?" my mom asked, curious as to what in the world could possibly follow.
"God thought, 'She's really gonna like this boy!'' was his oh-so-humble reply.

I think this friendship will go far.

"...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jonisms: The Photo Edition

"Jonah Rockets"



(formerly known as "Bubbles")



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trader Jo

Saturday, September 4 was a big day. It was the first gameday for Georgia Football, resulting in an avalanche victory for the Dawgs. It was the first Saturday in September and the fall weather was SO refreshing. Hutson Mason, UGA's backup quarterback fresh out of highschool, threw his first ever pass of his collegiate career for a touchdown. And Jonah spent his first night without a passie.

We were in the car on the way home from Grammy and Papa's tailgate and Jonah started talking about a cap gun. He's been hung up on a cap gun for about a month now after seeing one at a friend's house during our small group night. Bear said that he thought 3 was a little young for a cap gun. Maybe when Jonah turned 5. I casually threw out, "Yeah, and I know boys with passies don't play with cap guns."

That's all it took. He was ready to throw his passie away right then and there. Bear and I exchanged shocked stares, not sure if this was for real or not. I had just been to the dentist where he had explained to me that the passie had to be gone by age 4 or there would be permanent oral damage. I had shoved it into the back of my mind because I didn't even want to go there. Kindof like potty training. But everyone kept telling me that when he was ready, he'd let us know and it would be so easy. Well, the day was here.

We went to Wal-Mart where he picked out an entire cap gun set (I think that was a little overboard) and promptly offered up his passie to the cashier as payment. She handed him his receipt and it was all over. Done. Gone forever, as he would say. Now we have a cap gun rifle, a cap gun pistol, a holster, a bandanna, and 2400 caps. Yay.

Yes, I filmed the whole thing like a crazy person. Here's a video for your viewing pleasure but I'm sure there are more interesting things you could clean out your pantry. Plus, I'm trying to use some new video editing software but it was taking too long to figure out so it's just however it ended up once my patience was gone. A bit of a warning...the templates are pretty g-a-y so until we get new software, we're stuck with this.

And yes, Kami, I got the passie back from the cashier and am planning on bronzing it to put on our bookshelf. :) As for Jonah, he's doing great. In fact, he asked me right after we left Wal-Mart what did I think he could get for Lovie. I'd say, he's fine.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Did I Really Sign Up for This?

Yesterday I had my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) Workshop. This is to kick off the new year of study. Yesterday's was particularly exciting because we begin a brand new study of Isaiah this year. It's never been done before by the BSF organization. Along with the new study comes some new guidelines and procedures. It's all very encouraging and thrilling. (I think I also love each new year because I'm truly a geek at heart and love all the office supplies that come with studying the Word! I always stock up on Sharpies, Post-Its, highlighters, etc. for the year.) Anyways, during our Workshop the leaders had to answer what we wanted God to do for us, through us, and in us this year as we study Isaiah. Well, since everything had been so new all day my mind automatically went to Isaiah 43:18-19:

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

I want God to do a new thing in me! Everything else is new....Esther Grace has started showing her personality and WOW! She's a new thing! I'm going to have to parent differently with her and learn new things. Jonah's a new pre-schooler now. I want a new adventure with God, a new journey. I want excitement, thrill, a new revelation, a fresh anointing. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51:12) Little did I know what would confront me when I got home.

I was putting Jonah down for a nap when Bear came in from work.
"I brought a guest home."
By the way he said it, I just knew some huge snake or possum from the side of the road was waiting for me in the foyer.
"Is it a what or a who?" I asked.
He just grinned and led me through the hallway to a small statured man who was wearing glasses and standing in the middle of my living room.
"This is Jörg." (The best way we could ever pronounce it was George but that wasn't even it. It sounds kind of like Yurg.)

Apparently, my husband had picked up this man from the side of the road in downtown Atlanta. Jörg had flown into Atlanta on Monday and was backpacking through America for the next 3 months. No plan. No itinerary. Just him, a bicycle, and a backpack. My husband's dream. He had been standing on the side of the highway with his road map trying to decide where to go when a large truck rushed past him. The wind ripped his map out of his hands and into the traffic. The next person that talked to him was Bear Oh. And he would be staying with us for the night. WHAT?????!!!!!!

I panicked in my head. God, this is not a new thing. This is a crazy thing. This isn't an adventure, it's insanity. Didn't Elizabeth Smart get kidnapped by a homeless man that her dad employed? All these thoughts raced through my head as I extended my hand, smiled, and graciously said, "Hi. I'm Kristen."

I got to talk with Jörg all throughout the evening. He explained to me that his mother is a fan of "How you say, Old American Criminals." Huh?
"Like Kojak," he said. Gotcha.
That's how he improved his English. He bought her a set of DVD's for her birthday. He would watch them in English and then they would watch them together in German at night. I told him my favorite was Matlock. His mother is also a huge fan of "Gone with the Wind". Who's not? He said that he called her as soon as he got to Atlanta to tell her how disappointed he was.
"It's all gone. Nothing is left of the Old South," he sadly stated.
I told him of Madison and the legend of how Sherman left it intact on his march to the sea because of a lover who lived there. His eyes brightened as I explained that it was only about a 30 minute drive from our house. He said that he had read a lot on the 'Old South' before he left home and did desire to visit Savannah on his trip. Funny, I thought. We have several things in common. He shared pictures of his two daughters, 21 and 18, with us and laughed at our two little ones running around. He seemed very nice. Of course, I'm sure Ted Bundy did too.

The more he talked about his family, God began to do a work in my heart. I started to see him the way God sees him. He's just like me. He said that his 3 month journey in America was a spiritual one. He was looking for peace. He believes in God and says he obeys the 10 Commandments but doesn't believe in Jesus. 

Okay, God. So I'm in sheer panic mode on the inside but if my husband thinks this is a Divine appointment, I'm supposed to submit, right? I mean, that was in the vows somewhere I think. But I'm pretty sure it didn't include random strangers in our home. That part was definitely not in the vows. You know what echoed through my mind right then?  "The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) That was mixed in with a little of Hebrews 13:1-2, "Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." What else could I do?

So we all went to church together. Guess what the message was about? Isaiah 43:18-19 I'm not even kidding you. It was 80's Night for the youth, which I'm sure confused the heck out of Jörg. I tried to explain to him that we don't normally dress that way but I think something got lost in translation. He just nodded politely but I think this is the point when he started to think that he had been hijacked by serial killers. Especially when one of the boys walked in wearing a full fledged woman's leotard and started doing lunges down the aisle. The whole gist of the night was that everyone looked pretty silly dressed like the past and when we go back to our old ways of life after we accept Christ, we look pretty foolish. I mean, the whole point of this Christian life is to move forward.

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

You see, Jörg's past life was filled with sadness and despair. He lost his job working with Volkswagen when the financial crisis hit Germany and the banks refused to loan people money for new cars. He lost his house when he had no income to pay the mortgage. He lost his wife when everything was gone and she desired something more. Now he desires something more out of life, some could say a new thing, and has come here to America to find it. Jesus is it.

I'd like to say that he prayed to receive Christ right then and there. Honestly, I don't even know if he understood a single word. I do know that I prayed for him then and all through the night- every time I woke up to the sounds of what I thought was someone prowling around our house stealing every valuable we own. I wish I could tell you that I was victoriously bold and proclaimed Christ with every word I spoke. The truth is I put the kids in their jammies, put them in our bed, locked our bedroom door, and made Bear sleep on the couch to make sure our guest stayed put all night long. I completely fumbled through the whole thing. Maybe next time I will be more courageous. What am I saying? Next time?

This morning Bear took Jörg to Madison after a shower, a big breakfast, and a good night's sleep.
"For the record," I said as I passed Bear in the kitchen, "this doesn't happen again."
After about 5 minutes, he said,
"For the record, I heard you. If it really makes you that uncomfortable, it won't happen again."

For the record, I hope God heard that too.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Let's Lighten Things Up!

Okay, I just realized that the past two posts were so serious. My life is not that depressing! We've been so busy and my dad's internet card has been broken, hence the lack of posts. Here's some random Esther Gracie-ness for you..........

This is what greets me everytime I take a shower. The face of an angel.....

If Snow White had an apple, does this make me 'Stinkerella'?

I don't know what her fascination is with my onions, but they are Vidalias. A true southern gal!
Enjoy your Thursday!
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